Get personalized career counselling from an IIT Bombay topper & ex-McKinsey consultant
Learn more

How to choose a career

How to choose a career

by Sameer Kamat | Founder, Careerizma

Many people complete nearly 75,000 hours at work during their lifetime. Some are able to choose their careers almost automatically, as if they have known their calling all along. Some others recognize one rare talent in themselves and develop it to build highly successful careers.

They have it easy. But what about others who can identify only a few of their “passions” and dream of pursuing one for a career? Most lose their way, not knowing what they would really like to do—eight hours a day, five days a week, for the next 35 years or so—and choose a career at random or on a whim. No surprise then that 80 percent of people are said to hate their jobs.

No one wants to join this crowd. There are some prudent ways to avoid it. Here are some steps that you may want to take to select a suitable career.


Steps to select the right career


  • Evaluate yourself
    • Personality
    • Interests
    • Favourite Subjects
    • Skills
    • Education
    • Target Lifestyle
  • List down the possible careers
    • Find out more about each career
    • Shortlist careers
    • Interview professionals
  • Choose your career
    • Prepare a plan
    • Future considerations
    • Get help
  • Avoid these common pitfalls

Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.

1. Evaluate yourself


Your personality

Personality considerations should play a major role in your choice of career. Being motivated is the key to job satisfaction. For remaining motivated, you need to know your personality. You need to find out whether you have a promotion-based personality or prevention-based one.

People with promotion-based personalities are usually creative people and entrepreneurs. But they are also impulsive and overoptimistic. In contrast, those with prevention-based personalities often choose the safer option, try to maintain status quo, and are reliable and thorough.

So, while joining a corporation and moving up gradually the ladder would be ideal for a prevention-based personality, starting an own venture would be right for a promotion-based personality.

Similarly, if you are an introvert, a research-based job would be more suitable for you rather than a marketing one. If you are an extrovert, it would be just the opposite.

You also need to assess your interests, skills, aptitude, and values. Try to find your personality type and jobs that might be suitable for you. John Holland’s theory of matching personalities and jobs, for example, could give you clues about what career could match your character traits.

You may use career tests or other self-assessment tools. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is a well-known tool to match personality type to job. Although some scientists doubt the validity of the test and consider it not rigorous enough, the test has at least a few believers in corporate HR departments.

Read this:
How accurate is the Myers Briggs (MBTI) Personality Test?
Free personality test
How MBA programs help with personality development

Your interests

“Follow your passions” is the first piece of advice that people may throw at you, without fully realising the implications of doing so.

It is certainly a good idea to first identify your deep interests before beginning the process of choosing a career. But you should also do some research and planning once you decide to pursue your passions and examine the practicality of your plan.

You may have a dream career in mind—becoming a well-known singer, for example—but it might be difficult to pursue this dream. You may therefore consider some sensible choices that would still put in the general field of your dream career, in this case, becoming a recording engineer or a music journalist.

Your favorite subject

The roots of what you like doing could be traced back to your childhood. For that reason, you should also consider what your favorite subject was at school.

Did you enjoy chemistry? If so, how about a career as a pharmacist? Did math always interest you? You could become an accountant. If English was your passion, you could become a writer or an editor.

What you learnt in school could form the foundation of what you can do at a professional level. The possibilities of what you can do as a specialist or generalist have grown over the years.

Specialist vs Generalist Careers: Differences, Pros and Cons

Your skills

If you have identified particular skills that you have, see if this could lead to a career. For example, if you have people skills, you could do well in management and marketing positions. If you would like to help people out in difficult situations, pursue healthcare or administrative careers, for example.

Read more about:
Interpersonal skills
Communication skills
Management skills
Career management articles


Your education

Take into account your financial position, too. If the career you want to choose requires higher education, think whether you can afford going to a private school. If not, would attending the same course in a government institution be adequate? If you are facing major constraints, take a look at options in consultation with a career counsellor.

How to get into the top MBA programs in the world
Guide to the top MS programs
Online courses from the top universities

Your target lifestyle

Considerations of what lifestyle you would love to lead is also a factor that you have in mind. If you want the “best of everything”—live in lavish villas, drive a Rolls Royce, eat in posh restaurants, go on luxury holidays—you should probably aim for a job that pays a huge salary in a big city.

But if you want a quieter lifestyle, a job in a rural setting might just fit the bill. Or, if you want to work for the community, select a job in the social service sector.

Jobs with the Best and Worst Work-Life Balance
NGO Jobs and Careers in India
Work-life balance statistics in India worst among peer countries

2. List down the possible career options

Once you complete your self-assessment and career tests, you will have a few career options that you may want to research further.

Someone says that listing possible careers is like window shopping. You like a pair of jeans and decide to try it on.

Here, you make a list. It could include options from a military career or business entrepreneurship. Pick out careers that appeal to you, even if you don’t know much about them. See if they would fit you.

List of careers

Find out more about each career

Explore the occupations you have listed. Focus on a few and dig out more information from job sites, such as the educational requirements, job description, salary, work hours, and job outlook.

If you go for a career based on your hobbies or interest, it would be better to try it out as a volunteer. Read these benefits of volunteering.

Or you could do an internship. You may find that you have to do unsociable work hours or that you can’t earn a stable salary. Finally, you might realize that your hobby should stay as a hobby.

Learn more about: Entrepreneurship (Startups) | Technology | Finance | Marketing | Human Resources | Life Sciences | Non-Profit, NGO | Media | Other careers

Shortlist careers

If there’s something about a career that bothers you, strike it off your list. For example, the work may involve doing the night shift, and you feel you cannot ever consider it and you want regular work hours.

Or you are not really Christopher Columbus and would like to stay in your city. Ideally, your shortlist shouldn’t contain more than five career options.

Interview professionals

You now have only a few career options on your list, and you can begin some in-depth research. Try to meet professionals who are already in the careers that you plan to pursue.

Tap your network to find these resource persons. Conduct “informational interviews” with them to spot pluses and minuses. Do some shadowing to know what they do exactly.

You could also do some volunteering to find out whether a job would suit you and whether you could do it for the rest of your life.

How to network: Professional networking tips
How Exploratory Interviews work

3. Choose the right career

Select the career that sounds straight up your alley with regard to your educational background, interests, work environment, work hours, duties and responsibilities, salary, lifestyle, and job outlook.

Prepare a plan

Chart out a road map about how you are going to reach the goal. Do you have to join a school or university to acquire the educational background that you need. Or is it some skills set that you have to improve. Your plan will typically run its course for two to five years.

Future considerations

When choosing a career, ask whether your job will help you support you and your family. Is it stable? Will the skills that you develop continue to be in demand in the future? Will acquiring those skills necessitate attending a course with a high tuition? Would you have to take an educational loan, and would your job be well-paying enough and stable enough for you to make the repayment with a reasonable return on investment?

Get help

Instead of hunting in the dark, and reviewing hundreds of career options, it could make sense to get a career coach early on in your job search.

In addition to giving sane advice, career counselors can provide access to their wide professional networks. If you don’t want to shell out a fee for their services, you can find a career coach at your own college career center.

Career planning can really be brought down to just four main steps: understanding your likes and dislikes, skills and values; exploring the options; comparing the options and making a decision; and working towards the goal.

Read this to get Personalized Career Counselling.

Mistakes to avoid while choosing a career

There a few mistakes to avoid in career planning. One of them is to allow someone to have too much of a say in your choice. Your family or friends, based on their experience, and certainly with good intentions, may try to sway you this way or that. It is not a good idea to give their advice too much importance.

Here’s a story of what happens when you chase someone else’s dreams.

It is also not a good idea to try to emulate an extremely successful person in your circle of family and friends. One of your parents may be a well-known scientist and the other may be a successful doctor. But are these careers that you are interested in? You are an individual with different likes and dislikes, values and skills, and you may not be even remotely similar to the person whom you or your family members want to emulate.

There is no excuse for not doing enough research or not speaking to professionals in your favorite field. Reading job descriptions, earnings, and outlook is extremely important. You should also know the educational requirements and what program you should choose at college to have a good shot at getting your favorite job.

Giving too much importance to only salary will prove costly in the long run. You certainly don’t want to earn a huge salary doing what you hate. Your work has to be fulfilling, too.

How important is the salary in your career choice?
dark side of investment banking

Ignoring features of your future career that might trouble you later is an unwise thing to do. For example, if you cannot consider going abroad to work, and your career is likely to take you to another country, then you should give your choice another look. Similarly, if you are likely to end up giving up all your time for your job, neglecting your family and friends, you better go back to the drawing board.

Selecting an ideal career is important not only for you but also for your organization and your country, too. It ensures that you use your talents for your own progress and for the welfare of others, too. Meanwhile, those who use your abilities get their work done by the best possible person.